New Forest Centre – ‘Drive It Day’

held on the 23rd April 2023

The saying is, spend time on your planning and all will be well, but this event was planned in 2020, and what happens the dreaded Covid hit us all. The sad thing is it is still around, and one couple that booked to come along had to cancel due to catching it just before our event.

Our celebration of this day of motoring started at 10.30am from ‘The Sir Walter Tyrrell’ in Brook, just north of the M27 junction 1, where we had our teas & coffees (subsidised from centre funds) and the suggested routes were handed out to 24 car navigators (we had 4 more cars come in just for the coffee stop). This was our first real motoring day this season, so lots to catch up on and members to meet for the first time this year.

Coffee Parking

The cars were away by 11.30am on a 30-mile run around the northern section of the New Forest and not previously used for such days. Thankfully this proved to be enjoyable, as the weather had forecast a lot of rain and it actually became a bright and sunny day. We had reports that the route used had been new to a few members which is always satisfying feedback.

You may spot a member’s 1948 Austin 16 in the group, this is owned by Damian Trafford who lives in France, and was over here on a visit and joined us with his two grandchildren.

A good display at coffee time.

The pub was very busy on the day as the ‘Thames Valley Motoring Enthusiasts’ were also using the venue for lunch at 12.30pm and arrived just before our cars returned from the drive. Our lunch booking was for a 1.00pm, so our cars were parked mainly at the front of the pub and when that was full in the centre of the rear area of parking. This made the car park a great mixture of classics.

Lunch was served, and we found the food to be very good quality and the staff very efficient serving us all in a short period of time. As always, the chatting went on into the early afternoon, and then it was time to hit the road home.

The ‘New Forest Centre’ calendar is already fairly busy, with events for this coming year, and we look forward to many miles of enjoyment.

Exbury Gardens

Exbury Gardens

Despite some light rain dampening proceedings, a total of ten Austin Healeys assembled at the Kimbridge Barn, just north of Romsey, on Wednesday 25th May for the first “Reasonable Weather Weekday” of the year.
After a chance to catch up with friends, some of whom we hadn’t seen since 2019, over tea or coffee and, for most, a slice of cake, we all departed for a drive of around 35 miles, with our final destination being Exbury Gardens & Steam Railway.
Our route took us via the villages of Awbridge and West Wellow into the eastern New Forest and the village of Bramshaw. We then continued south via Cadnam, passing The Woodlands Lodge Hotel (a regular meeting place for the New Forest Centre) before reaching the village of Ashurst. From here, we continued through the New Forest to Beaulieu. This section of the route saw more light rain, but several cars pressed on without putting their tops up, clearly undeterred by typical English summer weather!
From Beaulieu, the route continued through the village of Blackfield down to Lepe Beach, where we were able to look across The Solent to the Isle of Wight. From there we continued on to Exbury, where most of the cars arrived in a convoy that was led by Brian Loades. It seemed that everybody was happy to trust that Brian’s local knowledge of the route would get them to Exbury without the need to follow the route instructions that they had been given!
Clearly the weather had deterred many others from venturing out to the gardens as the car park was much emptier than expected. We all parked up together in the car park and headed into the gardens for a spot of lunch and a stroll around the gardens, which are always a mass of glorious colours at this
time of year with the rhododendrons and azaleas in bloom.

‘Drive It Day’ Austin Healey Style

‘Drive It Day’ Austin Healey Style

It seems no time at all since we had the national Drive It Day 2021 operating within the ‘COVID
Rule of 6’ and limited to only three cars.
So on Sunday April 24th 2022 it was a treat to see the Healeys appear in style for the NFAHC run.
We did wonder if our club members confidence had returned enough to come along and join in. But
in full sunshine, mostly with the roof down, the Healey engines could be heard roaring from the
distance as they turned up for start. It was good to see familiar faces and new members having a
good natter over morning coffee and a generous silver platter of pastries provided by Le Chateau at
Eighteen cars were parked in a very orderly, disciplined fashion considering no marshalling took
place! There were 16 Healeys, including Healey 3000s, 100s and a smart red Sprite.
In addition we had an interesting Panther belonging to John and Sue Morrissey. They had hoped
that their Healey would be ready to drive that day, but sadly for them it wasn’t. On the other hand,
new members Andy and Carol Smith had their fingers crossed that their newly acquired Healey
would be ready, and to their delight it was! Oh and of course…. long standing members Pete and
Alison brought their E-Type and had to put up with the normal banter, such as suggestions that it
should be parked up the road on Haydon Tyres Forecourt. (They take all the flack in good spirit!).
The route of the day was distributed and the run got underway. Les was without a navigator in his
Sprite and had cleverly used Google Maps to plot the route on his phone. Francis and Yvonne
Bugler decided not to risk doing the run as their 100 had got stuck in 4th gear during their journey
from home. So Francis became Kevin Bennett’s navigator, and Yvonne and Andrea took advantage
of the sun and stayed behind in the garden until lunchtime!

Sporting a Drive It Day Plate
Sporting a Drive It Day Plate

The route passed through Romsey into Wiltshire, through Whiteparish, Whaddon, Downton,
Landford, Bramshaw and back to Cadnam. It took about an hour and a half along a variety of A
roads, B roads and a few dodgy, narrow lanes, where avoiding potholes on the left edge of the
tarmac demanded a bit of skilful driving to protect those vulnerable exhausts! There was the chance
to enjoy quiet, country lanes as well as places where you could put your foot down and give the
engine chance to show its potential. We were pleased to hear members say that they enjoyed the
views along the way, and some said that they had not driven along a few of the roads before and
thereby enjoyed the experience.

Natter over Sunday lunch
Natter over Sunday lunch

Everyone made it back to Le Chateau without incident and managed to avoid the pigs, donkeys,
cows and New Forest ponies that frequent our local roads. Thirty two of us sat down to a lovely
roast meal with fresh vegetables, followed either by an excellent apple crumble with custard, or a
good variety of ice creams. Our thanks go to the chef and staff for looking after us so well.
We hope that many of you reading this enjoyed a successful Drive It Day event. It felt so good
being free on the road again after all the restrictions of the last two years.
And yes, you’ll be pleased to know that, despite the jammed gear box, the Healey managed to get
back home using only its 4th gear and no doubt will be soon nursed back to full fitness for more

New Forest Centre RWW visit ‘The Hospital of St Cross’ and ‘Almshouse of Noble Poverty’, Winchester on the 4th September 2019

New Forest Centre RWW visit ‘The Hospital of St Cross’ and ‘Almshouse of Noble Poverty’, Winchester on the 4th September 2019

This establishment was founded just 65 years after the Norman invasion, and was created by a young French monk and nobleman, Henri de Blois, Bishop of Winchester, who was the grandson of William the Conqueror.

Display in the inner courtyard
Display in the inner courtyard

It remains a Christian almshouse for the elderly Founded in the 12th century, the Hospital of St Cross still provides accommodation for 25 gentlemen, aged over sixty, known as Brothers, and is amongst the oldest charitable foundations in the country.

The church at St Cross provides a private chapel for the Brothers, and is within the public parish of ‘St Faiths’

Brother John during the guided tour
Brother John during the guided tour

We parked within the church quadrangle which gave a magnificent backdrop to the 21 car display. Coffee was taken in the ‘Hundred Man Hall’ tea room, after which we split into two groups for our conducted 1¼ hr tours of the grounds and ancient buildings, which were provided by Brother John and Cathy from the Porters Lodge, which were most interesting and entertaining.

The grounds include a walled area with a carp pond with superb borders of flowers, and lawns. The tranquillity of the place was astounding as it is very close to the M3 and busy feeder road to Winchester city.

Lunch was booked at the ‘Bell Inn’ which was a 5 min walk, whilst the cars were left safely in the quadrangle by the church. Sam at the pub did us proud, and we all had a welcome lunch and wondered at what we had seen, as lots of members were unaware that such a place existed.

The alter in St Cross Church
The alter in St Cross Church

After lunch, some went for a walk along the Ichen River, one couple walked into Winchester, others sat in the gardens and enjoyed the sunny day by the carp lake.

By 3pm thoughts led to afternoon teas from the ladies in the Hundred Man Hall, or sitting at the outside tables, which rounded off the day well.

Display in the inner courtyard
Display in the inner courtyard

Our thanks to Peter & Alison, who donned their yellow tabards for early morning duties as marshals.

Foray France VII

Foray France VII

10 September to 19 September 2017

Having read about the amount of Euros Spain had spent on its new motorways (courtesy of the Bank of Merkle) and having heard rumours of an El Dorado with wondrous treasures beyond belief of man hidden in a torre a few miles south of Bilbao, we hoped we were not tilting at windmills when we set about getting in touch with our contacts to research this El Dorado treasure trove. It transpired that it actually existed and is a private Rolls Royce museum!! So we decided to organise a Foray to take in the Museo de Coches Antiguos y Clásicos en route to the Circuits des Remparts in Angouleme, and after much emailing and offering to pay a donation to their museum fund, they were more than happy for us to visit them and agreed to open on Tuesday for a private guided tour of the museum!!! Before leaving Bilbao we felt that the Guggenheim Museum should be added to the itinerary to add a bit of culture and to keep the ladies on side. This will prove that there is actually culture in our Forays and not just in the yoghurt!!

So, with the ferries and hotels booked, we set about planning the routes which would be incorporated in a Tulip Rally Book – and that kept us quiet for some while!!

I sent many emails to the participants many advising them to carry out the usual document checks and to let me have their current mobile telephone numbers so that we could all keep touch, the most important email being to check over the Healeys for any nagging defects that might have been around for some time. For the technically minded, before we left Blighty I went through the usual maintenance and sorted out the water leak through the wiper wheelboxes and changed them. They had been needing doing for some time as it is one of the most awkward jobs going. There is an old saying “change nothing before you go on a long tour”, and yes, you have guessed it, as soon as it rained (in Spain) the wiper arms kept lifting off the splines. My navigator should be in the Ladies England Cricket team as she was catching flying wiper arms left, right and centre!! When they came my way I dropped the catch, as I was changing gear, steering the Healey, listening to navigator, and not being able to multiskill, thus ended up with only the wiper blade!!! More later.

Day 1 Sunday 10 September; Aboard Cap Finisterre to sail to Bilbao

The hardy and brave souls who had prepared themselves for the rigours of the Bay of Biscay arrived at Portsmouth Dock for the two day crossing. Some of us were diverted into the Border Force area to be thoroughly checked over – car searched, human bodies and luggage scanned. In the Border Force office was a large box with a considerable collection of knifes and other offensive items confiscated that day!! Keep up the good work!!

Once we had all sorted out our cabins for the cruise we ventured down to the restaurant and bar. Yes we all celebrated the start of the Foray in the standard Healey manner!!!!

The Bay of Biscay did not let us down. All the stories you hear are basically true, and as the sea got up, the passengers went down – to their cabins to rest. Fortunately, later the next day the sea state became calm by Biscay standards and we were able to meet up in the restaurant for a very good meal before retiring for a good night’s sleep in preparation for the real adventure which begins in the morning. Foot note: comments overheard – “I am always seasick as soon as I step on board and it takes three days to pass” (shame we are only on a two day cruise)!; will Mr & Mrs Lowsley please come to the car deck as your Healey’s on the loose!!; comment from one of our group “We have been upgraded to an outside cabin” was this an upgrade to a lifeboat? I know it was rough but the sea was not that bad!!!

Day 3 Tuesday 12 September; Arrive Bilbao 07.45

We had a passable breakfast (no proper full English – it is a French ship!) and assembled on the car deck to disembark. (This time I had made sure my boot lid would open and not hold up the whole ferry as per Le Mans 2014.) I had studied the Bilbao dock plan to ensure a smooth transition from ship to shore, detailed instructions were handed out to the fellow travellers and as the first of our group was called to the car deck I asked that they go to the dock gate and the rest of us would laager up with them!!! Oh, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”, and this did not disappoint! Firstly, they had changed the layout of the dock roads so nothing worked out according to the route book, and secondly, the first person called to the car deck was the last off. How bizarre was that! So when all the stray Healeys had been rounded up at the dock gate with no sign of the “first off ferry” Healey in sight, an executive decision was taken to proceed with plan “A”, as we all thought the first Healey was long gone down the road by now. I was surprised by the weather, it was raining!! I remember years ago when I used to fly to Spain with Iberia Airlines, that they always handed passengers each a packamac remembering the saying that “the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plane”. The weather varied between wet and very wet so we hauled over at a wayside café and enjoyed breakfast number two. Contact was at long last made with the lost Healey and they had now decided to go directly to the Rolls Royce Museum (OK so I might change my mind about satnavs).

We all arrived safely at the Museo de Coches Antiguos y Clásicos for a stunning tour of this basically private museum. The current owners are grandchildren and close relatives of the Museum’s founder who kept every car he ever owned, never getting rid of any of them, and then started to purchase Rolls Royces as they became available, so ending up with a fabulous collection that includes 2 Rolls Royces that were used by our Queen. The collection is stored in 5 pavilions with the most desirable Rollers in what can best be described as a Baronial Hall. If ever you are in Bilbao at the weekend it is well worth the visit.

We left the Museo de Coches Antiguos y Clásicos at about midday and as the rain had abated we had an improving drive to Bilbao to visit the Guggenheim Museum. I must say at this point that I do not understand modern art. I mentioned this to a person who knows about these things and was informed that that was what modern art was about, so needless to say I still am none the wiser!! The architecture of the building is really stunning and is an art form in its own right, well worth the hassle of fighting through the maze of streets to get to the underground car park. And the car parks are an experience – they have lights above the parking bays, green for empty space and red for full space. How clever was that, planners please copy that over here.

Before we arrived in Bilbao we were treated to the high quality of their motorways and as we left the centre of Bilbao we went straight onto the motorway with tunnels through the mountains to travel on to our hotel for the night at Etxrea. We all enjoyed a meal together in the hotel along with ample quantities of wine and afterwards, in the bar, the bar steward seemed to have lost his measuring gauges and just poured the brandy until I said enough!

Day 4 Wednesday 13 September; Drive to Hotel Le Vieux, Sansguilhem, in the Pyrenees.

An early start was advised as there were 226 miles to be covered to get to our next hotel which would be in France. We had made it this far without any incidents worth recording and long may that continue, I hope I am not pushing my luck!!!

I had planned this drive to be an exhilarating one – motorways with stunning sweeping bridges and viaducts followed by country roads leading to the old mountain pass over the Pyrenees to France. I had been advised that fuel stations on the Spanish motorways were few and far between as they had run out of money to build them, but once we all arrived in France there would be no problems with petrol as every village seems to have a filling station.

The weather could not have been better; the rain clouds had gone and we had wall to wall sunshine. The motorways proved to be very cheap and the quality of the viaducts and bridges was first class!! There seemed to be a motorway service area everywhere on the trip and we were spoilt for choice, We therefore chose one with sun shades for the Healeys, yes sun shades. The problem re lack of service stations was old information as they were nearly two a penny!!

We left the motorway system to travel on the old byroads and as they had run out of money for the building of motorways you would find short sections of completed motorways going nowhere. We passed a deserted mountain village perched on top of what appeared to the stump of an extinct volcano. When we started the climb to the mountain pass the vistas were as I had hoped, absolutely amazing, skiing villages dotted on the mountain side (no snow this time of year) and the peak was reached.

We wound our way down into France through a gorge that made Cheddar Gorge look like a crack in the dried grass of our summer lawns and crossed the foot hills of the Pyrenees to the Logis Hôtel le Vieux.

I must add at this juncture that we could have taken a simpler and shorter route but it would not have been anywhere near as spectacular. We encountered alpine cows complete with cow bells, each bell seeming to have a different tone to it; interestingly, coming from the New Forest, we experience cows in the road on a daily basis and would never ever drive slowly past the rear end of a cow!!!! Unlike some of our city friends.

Now in France, as we approached our hotel, we found that all the local French filling stations had run out of 98 octane fuel and only some had 95 available!

Day 5 Thursday 14 September; Visit to Neolithic caves

The day started with very English weather – it rained, and after the heaviest rain had passed we set out to explore the local Neolithic caves and venture further afield to Lourdes and beyond (only in an earthly way of course). Once again the contest of maps over satnav came to the fore and in all honesty it was a draw. One satnav made it back to the hotel before the map, with another satnav following after the map. The jury is still out!!

The evening meals were typically French – one long table with everyone seated together, and needless to say the food was very good, the wine kept flowing and the company was excellent. David Thorn and I risked the wrath of the French guests by walking through the main restaurant resplendent in our Union Flag waistcoats and instead of insults we received nods of approval and genuine smiles.

Day 6 Friday 15 September; Drive to Angouleme

Once more an early start was advised as we had 223 miles to cover to reach our next hotel which would be in Angouleme. The day dawned fair, we set off in good spirits and followed the planned route which took us along beautiful winding country roads and others as straight as an arrow and all smooth as a billiard table. On through picturesque villages, we stopped for coffee and croissant and as we moved through the town we came to a very unusual sight in France – a traffic jam!!! After waiting for it to clear, which it did not, an executive decision was made to get the hell away from here!! We headed away from the queue to a side road that looked open and satnavs were primed to take us around this log jam. It worked and in no time we were back on the planned route, OK I now admit satnavs do have uses and although I am sure we would have been able to get round the problem using a map it would have taken considerably longer.

The last part of the planned drive to Angouleme was through 13 roundabouts of mixed sizes and I thought only us Brits that went for masses of roundabouts!!!

We had a bit of a rush to get down to the Hotel de Ville to book in for our prebooked Rallye Carnet which due to unforeseen circumstances I was unable to take part in. Happily the Lowsley brothers (not Mr & Mrs Lowesley!!) kindly stepped up to the plate to take over our drive. The organisers are normally not too happy with late changes as there are lengthy bureaucratic procedures to be followed but we were lucky, the lady in charge was very kind and said to the brothers “put the plate and ID bands on and go for it”!!. They use the information on the entry form to inform the spectators at the start about the drivers and the car.

Day 7 Saturday 16 September; Rallye International de Charente

Jo and I spent the day visiting parts of Angouleme that we had not seen on our previous visits and found that the market was open and the provisions on display put our supermarkets to shame. We found little bars in which to rest, one of which had the most delightful custard tart that I had tasted in a long while. As the Lowsley’s Healey started the Rally we heard the commentator announce that David and Jo in their red over white BN6 100/6 were starting. His voice tailed off as he realised that it was now a blue over white MkIII.

Day 8 Sunday 17 September; Race day

The weather was a bit overcast with a threat of rain. The first few races were in the dry and when it came to the Bugatti race, a large black cloud threatened to soak us and perhaps put paid to the race that I really wanted to see.

The rain did indeed come but it did not deter those Bugatti boys and out they came to do battle. They deserve a medal. Not for them a safety car and “Oh it is too wet for us to race”.

They raced and entertained the hardy souls who, while being lashed with the rain enjoyed the spectacle of real racing as it used to be. The rain had cleared enough for the racing to carry on and we had the Group B rally cars do what they called demonstration laps. I hate to think what it would be like if they really went for it!!

The last race of the day was won by an Austin Healey and that was a great ending of an entertaining day at the races for me and many other enthusiasts.

Day 9 Monday 18 September; Depart Angouleme for Hotel Domaine de la Blairie, Saumur

Off we go to Saumur, a 232 mile drive without using motorways. I try to keep away from them because with a group in convoy, if a car gets into trouble you cannot easily go back to help them and also, it saves money! Once again a very pleasant drive through villages to arrive at Saumur Chateau where, as we have done in the past, we stopped for our lunch. We met a fellow Brit who had with him a Swallow Doretti and we all passed a pleasant hour or so. If ever you are in Saumur do visit the Chateau and take your lunch at the café above the car park. The salads are so large they would feed the thousands and still leave some over for the philistines!!!!!

We stayed overnight at our preferred Hotel La Blairie. After washing away the dust and dirt of a 232 mile drive we all assembled for our final meal together.

David Thorn and I once more regaled ourselves in our Union Flag waist coats and much to our surprise we were entertained by a large group of retired French glass blowers, who sang a local Bretagne folk song in our honour. How very pleasing that we are still liked and wanted.

Day 10 Tuesday 19 September

After breakfast the group took a leisurely scenic run back to Caen. Jo and I waved good bye to them and wished them a safe journey as they set off to drive the 175 miles up to Caen to catch the afternoon ferry sailing to Blighty We were to stay for another 4 days or so to explore the Loire Valley and visit the chateaux of the Loire.

During this time I decided to try and sort out the ongoing problem with the wiper arms. It transpired that the new type wheel boxes had a spline longer in length than the original one. This meant that the wiper arm retaining clip would not lock under the new spline. So to overcome this problem we ordered compatible wiper arms from AH Spares (with very good service) to be delivered direct to our hotel and which arrived on time to be fitted. I felt that if we had new wiper arms it would rain again, this transpired to be the fact!

Off to a Winning Start

Off to a Winning Start

It has been a long winter… My last race of 2017 was at the Silverstone 3 hour relay on 30th September 2017. We had a 2 car team, 3000 MkII A (FSL 246) driven by my brother Charlie, Dad Bill and I were sharing with Mark Dunn who had very kindly handed me the keys to his 3000 Mk III (JNP 620C). We had a great race, the format was a 3 hour endurance relay, one car is always ready to go waiting in the pit lane and as one car comes in to change, the other follows it down the pit lane. The first car moves over to the right and the second car continues to join the track. We qualified 4th overall from a grid of 27 teams. By the end of 3 hours of hard racing, we were 3rd overall and 1st in class. Since the last race it has been a long winter, there’s only so much fettling and cleaning that can be done, and aside from a couple of pre-season test days to shake the car down, there wasn’t much high speed action for me. The car didn’t require much maintenance over the winter as it was running so well ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. All that was needed pre 2018 season was to get all of the brakes stripped down, give the car a full service and a rolling road session to check the fuelling.

My first race of 2018 was at Silverstone on 7th April 2018, supporting the brand new Equipe Pre 63’ series, a race designed for pre 1963 sports and GT cars. We have to run on 5.50 Dunlop L sections, not as wide as the 6.00 L’s that we can use in international racing, so a little bit less grip, but the steering is lighter, the car spins it’s wheels easier and moves around a little more. The 5.50L won’t last as long as the 6.00L so we have to bear that in mind. It brings us closer to the well driven MGB’s and TVR Grantura’s. The race is a 40-minute mandatory pitstop sprint, shared between myself and dad, Bill Rawles.

It was a competitive grid of 26 cars. We had stiff competition in the form of a Aston Martin Project 214 recreation and believe it or not, Elva Courier… as well as 12 other Healeys, a mix of 3000’s and 100’s! I qualified our Healey 3rd overall just 0.239 seconds behind pole. Bill started the race… I could say he was a little enthusiastic with applying the throttle at the start, as our Healey sat there in its own tyre smoke, but I may just be being critical… my 3rd place qualification soon became 13th!! But he fought back well over the next 15 minutes to get into 6th before the pit stop and change over. I jumped in with just over 20 minutes to go. We were in a battle with Mike Thorne/Sarah Bennett-Baggs Healey 3000 but after chasing down for many laps the inevitable pitstop handed us 5th, we soon cleared 4th and I was onto the back of the podium, a final push to the flag saw us finish the first race of the year 3rd overall and 1st in class!

The next race was at Brands Hatch over two days, 28th-29th April 2018. In horrible greasy conditions, I couldn’t get the power down in what can only be described as a scary qualifying session, the track was
covered in oil from the MGB V8 session just 10 minutes before. We qualified 7th overall, (have a look on my youtube page for the onboard footage, it makes for an interesting watch! Search ‘Jack Rawles
Racing’ in youtube).

By the time the race came along in the afternoon, it had dried up. The Healey had the power and was no match for the MGB’s, Healey 100’s and Turner, I won the race by 21.999 seconds over a 30-minute race. The second race of the weekend was held on Sunday, in effect, a 24 hour pitstop and the cars would start the race where they finished. MSA rulings state that if a second driver is racing in a double header, they cannot start where the first driver finished. Bill had to start dead last but this time, a greasy track to deal with and apparently …  someone had ruined the tyres the day before, but I am not sure if I agree with that, “they were fine on the last lap I drove!” I said looking at the treaded tyres which could be mistaken for slicks.

From last on the grid, Bill finished 5th overall. Bill was slightly disappointed with this result but we
think he did ok for an old boy! We went home with a pole position from race 1 and a 1st in class
trophy. I have a busy year ahead with races planned in our own car as well as David Grace’s Healey.
Next stop, Brands Hatch GP for the Historic Masters event, a 90 minute pitstop endurance race shared with David Grace. This race is on 26/27th May 2018.


1 2 3